Patent Lawsuit filed against Red Hat and Novell

The company IP Innovation has filled an “patent infringement claim” against the two largest Linux Distributors. The patent in question is about a “user interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects”.

The battle has begun. The first patent infringement claim against Linux is out there and two big Linux distributors will have to defend in court. Groklaw has more information and the text of the complaints.
This comes only days after Microsoft’s Ballmer attacked Red Hat Linux users.

IP Innovation already made such claims against Apple this year. However, Apple settled the the patent dispute without any further details.

While it doesn’t sound good that there is now a patent claim against Linux there is hope that a court find these claims not valid. Keep in mind that in these days the US courts are slowly moving regarding stupid or invalid patent claims. Also, this process will now show how vulnerable the Linux ecosystem really is against patent claims – and how well it can be defended. I must add at this point that I’m somewhat happy that there have been the SCO claims in the last years. Due to SCO the Linux community now has a well working and well established community of people who know their way about laws and courts: Groklaw. I’m anxious to see which role Groklaw will play in this act.

18 thoughts on “Patent Lawsuit filed against Red Hat and Novell”

  1. Why should any one have to defend themselves against a patent that (if it is what I think it is) has prior art. The patent shouldn’t have been granted never mind making it to court.

  2. Everyone is talking about prior art – but what prior art? The patent was filled in 1987, that’s damn early in the history of user interfaces.

    IMHO, the SCO claims have another upside for the linux community: people are now confident about their chances to win such cases.

    I wonder what Red Hat’s and Novell’s reaction will be. Will they fight on their own or will they fight together? Will they go for prior art or something else? Since IP Innovation probably does nothing but use their patents RH/Novell can’t even use their patents against this company, I guess.

    I wonder how good/bad the definition “user interface with multiple workspaces for sharing display system objects” is. IMHO this can mean very different things and could therefore be a nice attacking point.

  3. 1987 eh well

    “Switchable desktops were designed and implemented at Xerox PARC as “Rooms” by D.A. Henderson and Stuart Card in 1986[1] based upon work by P.P. Chan in 1984. This work was covered by a US patent”

    Case Closed – maybe.

  4. Dave: Did you want to show that Xerox has done prior art? That’d be wrong since the patent used to sue RH/Novell actually *is* the patent that Xerox got for exactly this work.

  5. I would have thought this one should have expired now. According to wikipedia, the term of a patent is 20 years from the earliest claimed filing date or 17 years from the issue date. According to red, it was filed in 1987, which gives us 2007-1987 = 20.

  6. Note to self – ‘RTFA’

    However the work by P.P. Chan must have been published through the university and be in public view before the patent was granted and so if at any point that document exhibits or closely infers multiple workspaces then the patent is void surely.

    I’ll scan read P.P. Chans document before shouting out.

  7. And the stars of the show once again, and the ones who’ll get rich once again, are the … nah, figger it out yerself. Hint: do the initial letters “L” or “A” mean anything?

  8. Notice it’s not a Linux kernel patent? This is actually an attack on the likes of KDE, Gnome, and all the other desktops that implement this.

  9. Berkus: because there is no money in a foundation like GNOME. And KDE e.V. is essentially a German foundation and therefore German law might interfere with the Patent stuff.

  10. Just a tiny correction, but it was “IP Innovations” (plural) that Apple settled with. This is a different company, “IP Innovation”, suing RH and Novell.

  11. pedant: Sorry, I can’t verify that, the given sources on the Apple settlement talk about IP Innovation, not IP Innovations. Please prove your claims.

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